A vast incision into the earth’s crust, the Grand Canyon is a sight to behold. Here are five tips to make sure you see it without the tourist masses.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon has some impressive stats to back up that title. Estimated to be around 17 million years old, it runs for some 227 miles and is in places 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep. Oh, and you can see it from space. Big, then.
But this huge hole in the ground slowly carved over many millennia by the constant rub of the Colorado River as it winds its way through Arizona is much more than a geological wonder— it’s a window into history. From the two-billion-year-old rocks it has uncovered, to its holy significance to the Native Americans who’ve lived there for thousands of years, there’s more to do than stand and stare at the awesome views it affords (although they’re reason enough to head there anyway).
So if you’re thinking of taking a trip in the footsteps of our MarkMakers and the other five million tourists who visit it annually, here’s some handy information to keep you away from the crowds.
Check out Marble Canyon first.
Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon – an enormous entry point that’s part of the Colorado River Canyon and a launching point for adventurers looking to river run the rapids snaking their way down and through it. If an adrenaline-fuelled soaking is your thing, head for Lee’s Ferry and check out Outdoors Unlimited for trips to suit all skills and levels of bravery.
FACT: there’s actually no marble at all in Marble Canyon. It was named that by John Wesley Powell who noted that the polished limestone looked like marble with rocks of white, gray, pink, and purple, with saffron tints.
Explore the North Rim.
Harder to access than the infinitely more popular South Rim (and a five hour drive from it), only around 10 per cent of Grand Canyon visitors make the hike to the North Rim. There’s good reason for this - the season is shorter (mid May to mid October) and it’s far more remote and wild, and will demand more walking, but the payoff is well worth it. Rising to over eight thousand feet high, the views are even more spectacular and the crowds thinner so you can see more for longer, especially from the extraordinary three thousand vertical foot sheer drop at the Toroweap Overlook. For more information and inspiration, choose a trail to hike.
Run the Route.
If hiking this remote wilderness isn’t enough of a challenge, you can always step things up and run 78 miles along the rocky-strewn North Rim trail up steep plateaus and down slippery, dangerous descents while carrying all your own supplies and water. The Grand Canyon Ultramarathon is only five years old but is already widely respected and loved/feared by ultra runners the world over.
Shoot your memories.
The Grand Canyon is a place begging to be photographed, but something so huge in scope and scale can be tough to shoot well, especially if you’re only using your smartphone camera. For help and top tips, check out our MarkMaker Masterclass with Kevin Russ, who takes amazing photographs using only his well-loved iPhone.